FROM today, Friday (May 18) front line police officers across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys will be equipped with spit and bite guards.
Spit and bite guards, made from a loose-fitting, lightweight mesh fabric, are placed over a person’s head to help minimise the risks of diseases and injuries associated with spitting and biting.
This means if someone spits or bites, or threatens to spit or bite, officers have a new piece of equipment to protect themselves and others.
Assistant Chief Constable Richard Lewis said: “Both spitting and biting are a particularly unpleasant form of assault and should not be considered by anyone to be an acceptable part of the job. Figures show there were 77 spit and bite incidents against Dyfed-Powys Police officers and staff in 2017 alone – more than six per month, on average.
“Assaults by spitting and biting can have long term and distressing implications for officers, who sometimes have to take medication for many weeks afterwards to prevent infection.
“Use of force tactics, such as spit and bite guards, are there to protect not only the public but also for the safety of our officers, who face dangerous situations every day.
“It is imperative that we employ proportionate and appropriate tactics in each situation we face in order to achieve our number one objective, protecting the public.
“Our officers go through rigorous and continued training on tactics which are considered by the Home Office as a use of force. Officers are highly trained to use force proportionately, lawfully and only when necessary.
“The Chief Officer team has listened to concerns raised by officers as well as taking on board recent recommendations from the National Police Chief’s Council and have taken the decision that spit guards will be rolled out to all front line officers across the force, in line with 25 other police forces nationally.”
Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Commissioner, Dafydd Llywelyn, said: “Dyfed-Powys Police officers do their utmost to deliver invaluable services to the public, day in day out, no matter the circumstances. It is not right that they are subject to abuse whilst performing their duties, and it is our duty to protect those who strive to keep us safe and free from harm.
“In March 2018 I wrote to Members of Parliament to encourage them to support the passage on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill through the House of Commons. It is an important initiative which seeks to underline the importance of protecting emergency workers from assaults such as spitting and biting, and is a significant step in highlighting our mutual stance on this matter. It is of utmost importance that we take action to protect our police officers.”
College of Policing said: “Spit guards are for the protection of the arresting officer, other emergency service personnel and the public.
“It is recognised that the need to use spit guards or handcuffs during the restraint of an individual may cause distress to them and those who witness the arrest.
“However, as well as serving as protective equipment for the officer, it is also recognised that, by eliminating the risk of being spat on, bitten or the transmission of communicable diseases, the need for physical restraint may be reduced.
“As such, the risk of serious physical injury to the individual being arrested, is also reduced.
“The College has recently led a national review of the Personal Safety Training given to officers, which includes a section on spit guards and the medical implications of their use.
“As with all use of force, it will be for the arresting officer to justify their actions in each individual circumstance. The availability and use of equipment such as spit guards remains a local decision for each chief constable.”
Questions on spit guards:
What are spit guards?
Spit guards are a piece of personal protective equipment (PPE). They are used to cover the head and face of an individual who is spitting or threatening to spit at officers, members of the public or anyone else in close proximity. They are made from a lightweight material which the wearer can see and breathe through at all times. Each spit guard is single use and will be disposed of once utilised.
Why use spit guards?
Spit guards protect officers, members of the public and other emergency services personnel from being spat at. This is a form of assault which is not only extremely unpleasant but can also be very dangerous with the potential for transmission of blood-borne viruses such as Hepatitis C. By using these guards, officers can minimise the chances of both themselves and others being spat at and reduce the risk of infectious disease transmission.
In what situations will a spit guard be used?
Spit guards will only be used by officers attending an incident where an individual is spitting or when there is an imminent and credible threat of a person spitting.The application of a spit guard is defined as a ‘use of force’. As with all use of force, the officer will need to justify their actions in each individual incident in line with the National Decision Model (NDM) and the Code of Ethics.
How will spit guards be used?
When a spitting threat has been identified the spit guard will be placed over the individual’s head with the reason for its use being fully explained by the officer. The individual will be monitored at all times whilst wearing the guard and will not be left unattended at any point. The situation will continue to be assessed and the spit guard will only remain in place as long as necessary to mitigate the risk of spitting.
What control measures are in place when officers use spit guards and how will this be monitored?
Officers have a duty of care towards anyone they use force on. All officers issued with a spit guard will have completed training on how to use these safely and will be fully accountable for their actions.
As with all use of force and in line with NPCC guidelines, officers will be required to record every incident where a spit guard is used on an individual. Use of the spit guard will be recorded via the submission of a ‘use of force’ report. Use of force will be reviewed in line with the NPCC guidance which is currently being finalised.